Thursday, June 24, 2010

Emerson: Obama using spill to ram through environmental policy

In her latest report, Eighth District Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson addresses the issues surrounding the spill int he Gulf of Mexico:

President Obama addressed the nation last week about the millions of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. But his comments about the Big Spill didn’t focus so much on the terrible event happening to our Gulf States as they did about the political opportunity to force a legislative agenda on cap-and-trade through Congress.

That speech was a lost opportunity to rally the nation behind the fishing industry, the tourist industry, the ecological health and the energy future of the Gulf Coast. Instead, the president took up a divisive policy which is stalled in Congress – legislation to cap the emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels to create energy and surcharges or taxes for the use of electricity and fuel.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill is a combined tragedy for our country. Eleven workers lost their lives, more were injured, and families are devastated. The spreading oil is a threat to wildlife, property and the economies of five Gulf Coast states. Instead of cohesiveness and problem-solving, however, we are getting more partisan gamesmanship – something the American people have had enough of from Washington.

Americans on the street know what needs to be done here: bring every resource to bear on stopping the leak, including taking the lead role in the disaster away from British Petroleum, the foreign-owned company that caused the spill. Do whatever it takes to get the specialized skimmers, ships and other technology from the countries which have offered it to us. And be supportive for the thousands left without a livelihood in the fallout from this disaster.

The Administration ought to already be demonstrating to the American people how it is closing the loopholes in federal agencies that were partly responsible for the safety of the drilling operation. Congress has a role to play, too, by holding offices like the Minerals Management Service accountable for their lazy approach to safety on the drill rigs they oversaw.

The Deepwater Horizon tragedy is a disaster, no two ways about it. It also demonstrates what is wrong with Washington, where placing blame supercedes taking responsibility, where rapid response is overshadowed by an overabundance of political caution, where the immediate future of the Gulf Coast is being put off in favor of a legislative agenda that has very little in common with an urgent mission there today.

In the days after Hurricane Katrina, I came home to Missouri, connected with some great members of our community, and loaded up a semi trailer full of relief supplies bound for Louisiana. What I saw, both in Missouri and on the way to the Gulf Coast, was nothing short of amazing: Americans inspired to do whatever they could to help their fellow citizens who had suffered a terrible misfortune.

The oil spill presents us with a stickier situation. Though people still need food and clothing as part of the response effort, people are still in their homes. Yet they have lost some things we may not soon replace: jobs, a beautiful coastline, and the hope of a rebuilt economic future. But instead of finding ways to help along a comprehensive recovery from the Big Spill, some in Washington are instead focused on using the disaster to leverage a separate agenda. Let’s not also take the energy industry away from a part of our country that has had enough misfortunes to last them a long, long time.

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